DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Jimmie Johnson is down to his last car.
That’s the bad news. A last-lap wreck in Thursday’s second Can-Am Duel 150-mile qualifying races destroyed Johnson’s primary No. 48 Chevrolet and forced him to a backup car for Sunday’s Daytona 500 (on FOX at 1 p.m. ET).
But fans of the six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion can take heart in Johnson’s performance in Friday’s practice sessions. The backup No. 48 Chevy was actually faster in single-car runs than the primary car in Thursday’s practice.
True, the wind was blowing in a different direction at Daytona International Speedway, but Johnson ran 194.083 mph in Friday’s opening session and backed that up with a lap at 194.250 mph in the second practice of the day.
“We’re minimizing risk, because that’s our last car,” Johnson said of the single-car runs, as his team was replacing his engine with the one he will use in Sunday’s race. “If something happened in one of the practice sessions, we’d be going to a teammate or somebody, trying to use one of their backups and then put a wrap over the top of it.
“That’s just a world we don’t want to be in. We get a lot of experience in the draft through all the races that take place, and it’s just something that… we’ve done enough, and we know what our race-time adjustments need to be and the balance that I’m looking for. So for us, it’s just business as usual, and it gives everybody else something to talk about.”
Johnson said the change in wind direction made it difficult to compare the primary and backup cars, but he described the backup as “very comfortable.”
“I think we finished second with it at Talladega last year (in the spring race)… We didn’t want to lose that race car last night, but things are going good with this one.”